April 16/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20,19-31. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Latest News Reports From miscellaneous sources for April 16/07
Clinton says Syria & Israel could resolve conflict in 35 minutes-Ya Libnan
Lebanese Judiciary Uncovers Corruption Scandal-Naharnet

U.S. Committed to Court, Worried About Lack of Christian Unity-Naharnet
UN's 30-year quest for Lebanon peace-BBC News
Syria rejects businessman's comments to Israeli lawmakers.International Herald Tribune
UK reporters union to boycott Israel-Jerusalem Post
Syria refutes Israel talks claims-PRESS TV
UAE demining effort in Lebanon hailed
-Khaleej Times
Secular Turks March Against Erdogan's Islamist Presidency-Naharnet

Lebanon: The ball is now in the UN's court to rescue the tribunal-Ya Libnan
Lebanon’s opposition upside down Logic-Ya Libnan

Bush to pay first visit to Pope Benedict in June-AP

Bush to pay first visit to Pope in June Sat Apr 14,
ROME (Reuters) - U.S.
President George W. Bush will pay his first visit to Pope Benedict in June, the Vatican said on Saturday.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Bush will meet the Pope on June 9 or 10 after attending a Group of Eight summit in Germany.
Benedict, who was elected pope two years ago after the death of John Paul II, last week lamented the "continual slaughter" in Iraq. "Nothing positive comes from Iraq," he said in his Easter message. A government source said on Thursday Bush may also see Prime Minister Romano Prodi during his trip to Rome.Relations between the two countries have been strained since Prodi took office a year ago, replacing centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, a staunch U.S. ally.

Judiciary Uncovers Corruption Scandal
A corruption scandal in the legal system – the base for desperately needed reforms after the decades' long status quo in Lebanon - has been uncovered.
Well-informed sources said the Lebanese judiciary has laid its hands on a "network" during written exams to select Notary Publics to fill the vacancies across Lebanon.
They said the mastermind of the network, which is backed by political as well as factional sides, operates from Beirut's southern suburb of Haret Horeik.
Based on testimonies obtained from some of those in custody, the sources said the network used its expertise in logistics and wireless communication by means of linking a number of candidates with receivers connected to the "mastermind" who was taking charge of answering test questions.
The sources said the cheating was detected when one proctor suspected an examinee repeatedly touching his ear.
After he was sent out of the exam hall and examined, inspectors found hidden wires attached all over his body as well as a sophisticated button-like receiver.
Soon afterwards, similar wires and receivers were found discarded in the lavatory.
Among those detained were Hassan Beshara, Philip Khoury, Bilal Khalil, Fouad Fakih, Fadi Shour and Ali Zaarour.
The sources said instructions were given to arrest two runaways --Levon Serajian and Ali Doulani.
Justice Minister Charles Rizk swiftly cancelled the exams, saying a new test date will be set later.
A statement issued by the bar association urged the judiciary to uncover all "the doers and collaborators ... in the cheating operation." Beirut, 15 Apr 07, 08:09

U.S. Committed to Court, Worried About Lack of Christian Unity

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch has said his government is committed to the formation of the international tribunal that would try suspects in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's murder and related crimes. Welch told An Nahar daily's Washington correspondent that if the Lebanese parliament does not ratify the tribunal, the U.S. will consider with other members of the U.N. Security Council legal options to set up the court.
He blamed "foreign interference" for obstructing the formation of the international tribunal. Speaker Nabih Berri, whose Amal movement is part of the Hizbullah-led opposition, is refusing to call for a parliament session to set up the court. Welch said that he discussed with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in a telephone conversation Wednesday discord among Christians in Lebanon. "I expressed my concern over lack of unity" between them, Welch added.
He also said that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Damascus has not led to changes in Syria's behavior in Lebanon.
Pelosi's trip last week stirred controversy, with President George Bush and other administration officials lashing out at the speaker for undermining the government's tough line against the Syrian regime, which the U.S. accuses of supporting terrorism. Beirut, 13 Apr 07, 10:32

UN's 30-year quest for Lebanon peace
By Paul Adams
BBC News, Lebanon
In the volatile border zone in southern Lebanon, sandwiched between Israel and Hezbollah, UN troops are continuing their perilous work to build peace.
Many towns in southern Lebanon were left in ruins last summer Unifil is the UN's interim force in Lebanon. Ironic, when you bear in mind that it has been there for almost 30 years. In the Middle East, very little is ever interim. The problems have a way of persisting. Qana is a town of memorials. The largest, a collection of tomb-like slabs, marks the spot where more than 100 civilians were killed by Israeli shell fire 11 years ago. But next to it stands a monument to dozens of Fijian peacekeepers killed on Unifil duty. It is not the only cenotaph of its kind in southern Lebanon. More than 250 UN peacekeepers have died since 1978. It is humbling to be reminded that soldiers have come here from all corners of the globe in a prolonged attempt to bring order to southern Lebanon. When I accompanied a patrol close to the Israeli border, I learned that Ghana was among the first countries to send troops and that practically everyone in the Ghanaian army has served in Lebanon at one time or another. And what for? How has this interim force actually improved the lives of the Lebanese? When you survey the wreckage of past wars, you do find yourself wondering why these dedicated men and women came here, why they laid down their lives. Sometimes, it seems to be Unifil's unfortunate fate merely to be stuck in the middle, unable to stop the periodic upheavals that have punctuated life here.

The UN's observation post has been partially demolished in Khiam
Nowhere is this more graphically illustrated than at Khiam, over to the east.
Four unarmed observers - from Finland, Canada, Austria and China - were killed when the UN's observation post was bombed to smithereens by Israel at the height of last summer's fighting. Israel apologised, saying it was a mistake, but eight months on, UN personnel barely conceal their contempt.
Our obliging Italian helicopter pilot made several passes for us. As we circled low, I saw where a section of the outposts' concrete blast walls, whitewashed in typical UN style, stood partially demolished: the U of United still upright, the N of nations lying on its side. A few days later, we drove to the site. Personal effects lie scattered in the wreckage which, for some reason, has yet to be cleared away. A book about Helsinki's cultural attractions, a box of Chinese tea, a novel in German.
Broken fragments of the UN's blue and white logo have been propped up by the front gate.
The whole devastated, eerie site stands as an eloquent symbol of the international community's frequent impotence in the face of conflict. Getting on with the job The UN is acutely aware of its reputation and knows that should Israel and Hezbollah decide to go at it again, there is little Unifil will be able to do to stop them. But for the moment, despite the oft-heard sentiment that war is bound to break out again this summer, this seems a remote prospect. Neither side has the appetite for a fight, at least for now.
Fragments of the UN's blue and white logo lie by the front gate And so Unifil gets on with its job - reinstalling markers along the so-called Blue Line, indicating the approximate position of the Israeli-Lebanese border, getting rid of unexploded weaponry, helping, through what the military like to call "quick impact projects", to repair bits of Lebanon's infrastructure, and patrolling, lots and lots of patrolling. In the warm spring sunshine, carpets of flowers waving in the breeze on the rocky slopes, the pungent smell of orange blossom overpowering among the citrus groves, it all seems idyllic enough. And, for the most part, all is quiet.
But in towns which still bear the scars of last summer's fighting, there are sullen, cold looks from young men, Hezbollah fighters - or at least supporters - who resent the fact that for the first time in years, the organisation is having to keep the lowest of low profiles, a result of August's UN resolution and the subsequent ceasefire.

Syria rejects businessman's comments to Israeli lawmakers that Assad ready for peace
The Associated PressPublished: April 14, 2007
DAMASCUS, Syria: Syria on Saturday rejected comments made by a Syrian-American businessman who recently told Israeli lawmakers that President Bashar Assad was ready to make peace with the Jewish state.Information Minister Mohsen Bilal told state television that businessman Ibrahim Suleiman's comments "express his personal point of view, and Syria has nothing to do with this visit or statements."In an unprecedented appearance before an Israeli parliamentary panel on Thursday, Suleiman, a Syrian-born American, said he had high-level contacts with officials in Damascus. Although he said he did not speak for the Syrian government, he predicted that Israel and Syria could strike a peace deal within six months if they were to resume talks."Syria right now is ready to speak peace. I challenged the Israeli government to answer President Bashar's call for peace and sit down together," Suleiman said.Bilal said Syria is keen to reach a peace settlement, but according to U.N. Security Council resolutions and the Arab peace initiative — which call for Israel to withdraw completely from territory occupied in the 1967 and 1973 wars.
Today in Africa & Middle East
Nigeria begins voting in landmark election, but intimidation is widespread Bombings kill 37 in Baghdad; 2 UK helicopters crash, killing 2
Militia talks could reshape Darfur violence "There are a lot of Syrians living in the West who visit their home country, and many offer to help out in the peace process, and do similar to what Suleiman did," Bilal said.The official Syrian Arab News Agency quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying that Syria has "stressed repeatedly its rejection of any secret talks or through unofficial channels."Earlier this year, it emerged that Suleiman held several rounds of secret, unofficial talks with former Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Liel, with the knowledge of leaders in the two countries.Following Suleiman's appearance, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave no indication it was ready to restart peace talks with Syria — broken off in 2000.
Assad has repeatedly said he is interested in restarting negotiations, but Olmert has insisted that Assad end his support for militant groups before talks can resume.
Israel has used informal contacts in the past, including the talks that led to the 1993 Oslo peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians. Those talks began as meetings between academics and unofficial representatives of the two sides.

UK reporters union to boycott Israel

Britain's National Union of Journalists denounced Israel on Friday for its "military adventures" in Gaza and Lebanon, called on the government to impose sanctions and urged a boycott of Israeli goods. By a vote of 66 to 54, the annual delegate's meeting of Britain's largest trade union for journalists called for "a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions, and [for] the [Trades Union Congress] to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government." Some of the union's 40,000 members decried its "trendy lefty" agenda. Other motions before the four-day meeting in Birmingham, which ends Sunday, included condemnations of the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and support for Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
Irish artists' call for Israel boycott mocked
The second Lebanon war: special report
The boycott motion was the third clause of a larger anti-Israel resolution proposed by the union's South Yorkshire branch that condemned Israel's "savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon" last summer and the "slaughter of civilians in Gaza" in recent years. Motion 38 also called for supporting the NGOs Jews for Justice, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and the Council for the Advancement of British-Arab Understanding. After an hour of debate, a motion to sever the boycott clause from the condemnation motion was adopted. The motion condemning Israel's "savage" behavior toward Palestinian civilians in the wake of "the defeat of its army" by Hizbullah passed by a wide margin. Following two abortive hand counts, the boycott motion passed by 66 to 54.
The Daily Telegraph's Washington correspondent, Toby Harnden, characterized the vote as "inane, ineffectual, counterproductive and insulting to the intelligence."
"Why should my dues be spent on anti-Israel posturing of which I and many other members want no part?" Harnden wrote on his Telegraph blog, condemning the motion as "tendentious and politically-loaded propaganda that would be rightly edited out of any news story written in a newspaper that had any pretensions of fairness." Craig McGinty, a freelance journalist and member of the Union of Journalists asked on his blog, "How boycotting any nation's goods, whether it's Israel, China or Umpah Lumpah Land will help improve the lot of both staff and freelance journalists." Former Guardian reporter and Yahoo Europe news director Lloyd Shepherd quipped that he now looked "forward to similar boycotts of Saudi oil (abuse of women and human rights), Turkish desserts (limits to freedom of speech) and, of course, the immediate replacement of all stationery in the NUJ's offices which has been made or assembled in China."
On the same day the National Union of Journalists condemned Israel, the organization's international affiliate, the International Federation of Journalists, called on the Palestinian Authority to secure the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped five weeks ago by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza.
IFJ general-secretary Aidan White urged the "Palestinian government to do everything in its power to make sure [Johnston] is released immediately."
The kidnapping had done "great harm not just to journalism but to the development of the region in general by making it impossible for journalists to work safely and report on developments there," he said. Johnston's kidnapping was not on the NUJ's agenda.

Syria refutes Israel talks claims

Sun, 15 Apr 2007 08:20:28
Syria has rejected statements by a Syrian-American businessman who said that he had been at the heart of unofficial peace talks with Israel.
The official Syrian Arab News Agency quoted the Information Minister Mohsen Bilal as saying on Saturday that Syria opposes any secret talks.
"The statements and the ideas of the American-Syrian Ibrahim Suleiman do not reflect the point of view of Syria, which has repeated many times its refusal to undertake secret negotiations," Bilal was quoted as saying. Suleiman on Thursday told a top Israeli parliamentary panel that Syria and Israel could clinch a peace deal in six months. "Like everyone else who proposed playing a role in the peace process, Mr. Suleiman heard Syria's position which rejects secret negotiations," Bilal said.
Suleiman and Alon Liel, a former Israeli foreign ministry director general, say they headed two years of the secret talks during which understandings were reached for a peace treaty between Syria and Israel. Suleiman, 60, was at the center of the official peace talks between Israel and Syria which began following the Madrid peace summit, including the 1996 US-sponsored talks at Wye Plantation and later in 2000 in Shepherdstown. Suleiman said on Thursday that during those talks, "the sides solved 80 per cent of disagreements." He claimed that he and Liel had succeeded in further narrowing the gap between the sides, and that their talks should be replaced by official negotiations.
"Our work is done, now it's up to officials in Israel and Syria to sit down and iron out their differences," the US businessman said, adding, "We gave them a peace map." However, the information minister said the Syrian people support President Bashar Al-Assad's conditions for peace, which include, "the restoration of the whole occupied Syrian Golan …, the establishment of a Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital and the recognition of the Palestinian refugees' right of return to their homeland."

Secular Turks March Against Erdogan's Islamist Presidency
Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Turkey gathered here Saturday for a mass rally to discourage Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a conservative with an Islamist political back ground, from running for the presidency. Protestors, many of them waving the red and white star and crescent flag of Turkey and bearing portraits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern republic, filled four major arteries for a length of several kilometres (miles) as they marched on Ankara's sprawling Tandogan Square.
From there, under the discreetly watchful eye of a 10,000-strong police officers, they headed toward the nearby Mausoleum of Ataturk.
Police estimated the crowd at more than 300,000, while the organizers, non-government groups led by the Association of Ataturk Thought, said one million people attended the huge pro-secularism demonstration dubbed "Rally for the Republic," flooding into the capital in packed buses, trains and planes.
As they poured into the huge courtyard of the Mausoleaum, joining people paying their respects to the founder of the republic, who died in 1938 after 15 years as Turkey's first president, the crowd broke into wild applause at the changing of the guard of honor. "The nation is proud of you," they chanted to the soldiers, transforming the normally hushed venue into a demonstration ground. Deniz Baykal, leader of the social-democratic main opposition Republican People's Party was among the crowd, as was Zeki Sezer, chairman of the Democratic Left Party.
Hundreds of buses that brought in out-of-town demonstrators -- more than 100,000 of them, according to police -- packed the grounds of the Ataturk Cultural Center in Ankara, formerly the city's race track. The crowd, chanting "Turkey is secular, it will remain secular" waved placards reading, "Cankaya (site of the presidential palace in Ankara) will not be home to (religious) sheikhs and brotherhoods." Erdogan, who has yet to say whether or not he will run for the largely symbolic presidency, is widely criticized by Turkey's secular establishment, including the powerful army, which remains skeptical of his avowed rejection of his radical Islamist past.
Candidacies for the presidency can be submitted from Monday morning to midnight on April 25, and many believe Erdogan, who has been canvassing his parliamentarians and NGOs, will run for the nation's top post. "Legally, he can" become president, wrote columnist Can Dundar Saturday in the liberal daily Milliyet. "Politically, he shouldn't. In fact, he will."
"They want to slowly transform Turkey into Iran or Saudi Arabia," retired teacher Mehlika Erecekler, 44, told AFP, "but they can't because they're afraid of the army. We support the army." "God preserve us from sharia (Islamic law)," she said. Another demonstrator, retired government employee Ayda Aysel, 66, said: "I've seen my share of coups (in Turkey, where the army intervened in 1960, 1971 and 1980) and every coup put Turkey back by 10 years. But if (Erdogan) becomes president, it will put Turkey back by 100 years." Many oppose the idea of Erdogan's wife Emine, who always wears the Islamic headscarf hated by most secularists as a symbol of religion in politics, becoming Turkey's first lady and one headscarf-wearing demonstrator agreed. Durdu Kuran, a 41-year-old agricultural worker from the southern town of Finike said: "I don't want Erdogan to become president because he exploits our religion, he exploits the headscarf." Turkey's president is elected for a single seven-year term by parliament, where Erdogan's Justice and Development Party holds a comfortable majority.(AFP) Beirut, 14 Apr 07, 16:44

Younger Cheney rages against Syria
April 14, 2007 Dawn
Just a week after Vice President Dick Cheney accused Congress’ senior Democrat and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi of “bad behaviour” for visiting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his daughter and former senior State Department official, Elizabeth Cheney, called Thursday for a global diplomatic embargo against Damascus. Writing in the Washington Post, the younger Cheney, who served as number two in the State Department’s bureau of Near Eastern Affairs as recently as ten months ago, accused Assad’s government of a string of assassinations in Lebanon, adding that any diplomacy with his regime was “not only irresponsible, it is shameful.”“Talking to the Syrians emboldens and rewards them at the expense of America and our allies in the Middle East. It hasn’t and won’t change their behaviour. They are an outlaw regime and should be isolated,” according to Cheney who, while at the State Department, reportedly worked closely with her father’s office in promoting Syrian exiles opposed to Assad.
“Members of Congress and State Department officials should stop visiting Damascus. Arab leaders should stop receiving Bashar al-Assad,” she went on in what appeared to be a harsh and thinly veiled rebuke of both her former boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Abdullah, who held two private meetings with Assad during last month’s Arab League summit in Riyadh. Cheney, who left the State Department on maternity leave in the spring of 2006, is known to be politically very close to her father and to some of the neo-conservatives, notably the vice president’s national security adviser, John Hannah, and senior Middle East aide, David Wurmser, in his office.
That she should issue such a sweeping call for Syria’s diplomatic isolation and the adoption of both bilateral and multilateral sanctions against Damascus at this moment evoked considerable speculation here, particularly about the current power balance between hawks led by the vice president and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, on the one hand, and “realists” led by the State Department, on the other, within the administration of President George W. Bush.
“This could be a desperate attempt to reverse a trend that is going against them,” said Wayne White, a former top State Department Middle East analyst and adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute here, noting that the administration’s policy of isolating Syria has taken a number of serious hits recently with the visits of both US lawmakers and foreign diplomats.Cheney’s blast, he added, “could not be more ill-timed... To the extent that Syria is angered by this sort of thing, it could make the situation worse.”
In the last six weeks, Rice has moved -- albeit somewhat tentatively -- to ease Washington’s unilateral diplomatic embargo against Damascus which it launched in early 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which has been the subject of a UN Security Council investigation whose results are expected to be made public shortly.
In late February, she explicitly embraced recommendations by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) that Washington sit down with Damascus, as well as Iran, as part of a series of regional talks on Iraq that began in early March in Baghdad. She announced at the same time that she would personally take part in the second round of talks which is currently considered likely to take place in Egypt in early May.
She also sent her top refugee aide, Ellen Sauerbrey, to Damascus in early March to discuss with officials there the plight of as many as one million Iraqis who have sought safe heaven in Syria.
Finally, she offered strong rhetorical support for King Abdullah’s efforts to re-launch at last month’s Arab League meeting in Riyadh -- the 2002 “Beirut Declaration” -- a peace plan that offered Israel normalised relations with all Arab League members, including Syria, in exchange for its return to its 1967 borders. It was at the Riyadh meeting that Abdullah met personally with Assad, symbolically ending two years of estrangement between the two governments that began with Hariri’s assassination and worsened during last summer’s war between Hezbollah and Israel when Assad accused the region’s Sunni leaders of being “half-men” for attacking the Lebanese group for recklessness.
The Saudis, like State Department “realists” and the ISG’s co-chairmen, former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, have come to believe that wooing Syria, whose isolation has made it increasingly dependent on Iran, is critical to a larger strategy of containing and rolling back Tehran’s influence in the region, particularly its influence over both Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.
That view is also increasingly accepted in Israel where a growing number of current and retired senior national security officials have been calling for the government to accept Assad’s repeated overtures since last fall to resume peace talks that broke down early 2000.
Indeed, on the same day that Cheney blasted all western and Arab efforts to engage Damascus, the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee met with a Syrian-American with close ties to the Assad family and a former senior Israeli foreign ministry official, Alon Liel, who testified about their secret, two-year effort to draft a detailed peace plan. “I ask the Israeli government -- I challenge the Israeli government -- to answer President Bashar Assad’s call for peace,” said the Assad confidant, Ibrahim Suleiman, who predicted that a final accord for normalisation of ties and the gradual return of the Golan Heights to Syria could be hashed out within six months.
But such an engagement has been vehemently opposed by Cheney, Abrams, and other administration hawks, who, despite their diminishing numbers within the administration since the departure of former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and UN Amb. John Bolton, have so far held the line against the State Department’s -- and, for that matter, the Israeli government’s -- interest in at least exploring what Damascus may be prepared to offer.
Indeed, if Cheney’s column, entitled “The Truth About Syria”, reflects the hawks’ view, it appears they are prepared to fight tooth and nail against any attempt -- whether by Israel, Saudi Arabia, or even Washington’s European allies -- to gain Syria’s cooperation on a range of Middle East issues, from stabilising Iraq to reining in Hezbollah and Hamas.
“European governments should demonstrate that they value justice over profit and impose financial and travel sanctions on Syria,” wrote Cheney who also called on the administration to itself impose the full range of sanctions against Damascus, a number of which Bush has so far ignored, that has been authorised by Congress.
Despite the fact that UN investigators have yet to submit their final report, Cheney all but accused Assad of responsibility not only for Hariri’s assassination, but also for that of four other prominent Lebanese, including Pierre Gemayel’s death last November.

Islamists Tear Down Crosses From Assyrian Churches, Tell Christians to Convert or Die
Assyrian International News Agency
Baghdad (AINA) -- An unidentified Islamic group has been threatening the Chrisitan Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) in the Dora district of Baghdad, a traditionally Assyrian area. The Islamic group issued an ultimatum yesterday to Assyrian families, telling them to leave Christianity and convert to Islam within 24 hours or they would all be killed. The Islamic group also issued a fatwa (a religious edict) to confiscate the property of all Christians, to force Assyrian women to veil themselves, to forbid genuflection (making the sign of the Cross) and the wearing of the Cross.
Earlier the same Islamic group forcefully removed the Cross from the churches of St. John and St. George. An affiliated Islamic group in Northern Iraq occupied the Assyrian monastery of Raban Hormuz.
The persecution of the Assyrians in the Dora district has been relentless:
March 18, 2007: Muslims Force Assyrians in Dora to pay a 'Protection Tax'
November 8, 2004: Two bombs exploded outside two churches in southern Baghdad quarters of Dora. Three people were dead and around 40 to 50 injured.
November 2, 2004 An unidentified group surprised and fired upon an Assyrian family in Dora, Meekanik quarters, south of Baghdad. 'Alaa' Andrawis (b. 1965), his wife Evelyn Malkizdaq, and their 10-years old son were shot at while in their car.
October 21, 2004 Layla Elias Kakka Essa (aged 30s), a translator in the Assyrian quarters of Dora, was shot and killed.
October 16, 2004 The St. Joseph church in Dora is hit with a bomb, along with four other churches in Baghdad
June 11, 2004: Four masked men entered the Assyrian Christian district of Dora in a civilian sedan and opened fire on the Assyrians, killing four and wounding several others. March 22, 2004: An Assyrian Elderly couple, Ameejon Barama and his wife Jewded, were brutally murdered in their own home in Dora. The husband's throat was slashed and the wife was struck repeatedly to the head.See also the following:
Violence Against Iraqi Assyrians Since the Liberation of Iraq
Muslims Forcing Christian Assyrians in Baghdad Neighborhood to Pay 'Protection Tax'
Assyrian Testifies At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Iraq's Christians Live In Fear
Seven Assyrians Gunned Down In Baghdad
Iraqi Church Bombers: 'Christians Are Grandchildren of Monkeys and Swines'
Chaldean Seminary Rector Kidnapped in Iraq
Christians Live in Fear of Death Squads in Iraq
Iraq's Christians Flee As Extremist Threat Worsens
Iraqi Christians on Edge After Priest's Kidnapping
Fire Consumes Over 500 Assyrian Shops in Baghdad Suburb
Three Killed in Church Bombing in Baghdad
Iraqis Squeezed Out By Kurdish Expansion, Muslim-Centric Constitution
Continuing Attacks Against Assyrians in Iraq Renew Calls for a Safe Haven
Terrorist Attacks on Assyrians Intensify
Copyright (C) 2007, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.